Victor Menza Obituary

May 7, 2013

in News,Obituaries

The wonderful Victor Menza died April 25th at home. We who love him are at a complete loss, easy to understand if you ever met him. People can’t be summarized but many of the particulars that made him so lovely appear in his book, which he finished this past December. He took classics and literature at the University of Buffalo where he studied with the poet Charles Olson, who urged him to pursue philosophy. He earned his PhD at Johns Hopkins as a Woodrow Wilson scholar, with a thesis on why Plato banned poets from his republic. Victor came to Dartmouth to teach philosophy, which he loved doing and was outstanding at.
He was a joy to talk to and wrote in plain, suddenly lit up English you feel you can hold. His corpus is a revelation and great example how any person willing to keep on thinking, care about politics, and be true to themselves can practice philosophy. Good manners and principle freed everything up for conversation; so did the fact that Victor was very very funny. He liked being helpful, giving out ideas, books and music especially, including enchanting melodies he made up on the piano, and soothing hurts. For all his boldness, he impressed one as gentle and kind, which he was. He took up the big or small things people said and remembered them.
Aggrieved finding out at 54 he was adopted because it meant he had been repeatedly lied to, he abhorred secrets. Bookstores were among his favorite places (preferably daily), though not libraries with their forced quiet. He always had a small, ever-changing stack of books by his side to help with problems bearing on his current work.

Victor showed enormous bravery and devotion standing up for his students and daughters. An untold number remember something he said they still live by; he was that nimble, that open. He championed love, as his girls and all he befriended will attest.

This obituary first appeared in the May 9, 2013 print edition of the Vermont Standard.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Murphy January 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Victor Menza taught me in several courses at Dartmouth almost 40 years ago, and my memory of him is incandescent. Kindness, humor, enthusiasm and excellence coexisted in him in a wonderful way. I regret that i was unable to thank him in later years, though I’m sure that he knew that he was perhaps the most popular and influential teacher at Dartmouth in the 1970s, who introduced scores of students to Thoreau”s “Walden”, Stanley Cavell, Walker Percy, Plato and Barthes as no one else could or did.

Sheila Shapiro May 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I knew Victor as an undergraduate in Buffalo and only heard of his passing from a mutual friend, Andre Toth. Victor and I were in several classes together and I spent many hours talking with him about the things we were reading. I lived at home with my parents and enjoyed going to his house where he had the whole third floor to himself… I remember vividly the day I was in a class and Victor appeared breathless in the doorway to announce that President Kennedy had been shot. The class was dismissed, of course, and we went across the street to the local bar, drank cokes and watched the tv there, waiting for news…and when it came, we cried. I was saddened to hear that Victor is gone, but I smiled when I read his obituary, learning that his humor, his generosity and his goodness remained with him throughout his life.

Cynthia Sands, Michael Sands May 13, 2013 at 8:57 am

We are saddened to hear of this terrible loss. Michael and I work at F. H. Gillinghams, Woodstock, VT. Victor was someone we always looked forward to seeing in the store. Our condolences go out to his family and friends. We are also especially fond of Lynn Zorn, and miss her and Victor very much.

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